A Canadian Boyfriend
Edited by Barry Broadfoot, Six War Years 1939-1945: Memories of Canadians at Home and Abroad, 1973, p. 302-304.
Canadians were big stuff in Holland. We’d liberated a lot of it, you understand, and their Queen Juliana had been in Ottawa during the war. Everything worked together, and we all got along fine.
Our artillery bunch had been pulled back and we were at rest in a large building. Anyway, nearby was this Dutch farmer’s house. There was this old man, Van Voort, the mother, a grandmother who didn’t say much, and three daughters. One son was with the Royal Dutch Air Force and the other had just disappeared some time ago.
When our outfit went back up, six of us, a sergeant, a corporal and four of us, we were left behind and this place we were in became kind of a rest area for our battery, and others. We kind of ran it. There wasn’t all that much of a war that winter, so it was a good life for us.
At night some of us would go and sit in the farmhouse kitchen and yak. They spoke good English. Most Dutch people spoke some, but the Voorts were good. We’d bring our goodies from the kitchen and they’d share, and make special soups and stews with chunks of meat and big fat dumplings. They knew how to eat. They also know how to entertain, and we’d have rare old times. We spent Christmas with them and exchanged presents, things we’d bought on leave in Amsterdam, and they gave us socks and I got a wool vest.
One of our guys was Keertbergen. He spoke French and Dutch but he never let on. When the mother and dad would suddenly break into Dutch and talk, or the girls did, well, old Keert was there, ears all pricked up but not letting on.
So one night back in our quarters we’re melting down some chocolate bar for a drink before dinner and Keert is snickering away, and finally he says, “Tim, they’ve got Anna staked out for you.” Anna is the second, about twenty-two then, and I’ve got to say it, she was quite pretty. Big like a lot of Dutch girls are, bigger than her sisters.
I said what the hell are you talking about? He laid it out, line by line. I was good-looking, and I said well, thanks. I had a good education and my father was wealthy. So, Anna would try for me. She’d shoot for a Canadian boyfriend.
How the hell did he know all this? He said two ways. He’d listened to the old people talking, you know, when they would suddenly start speaking Dutch, and besides, Katie had dropped a hint along the line. This was the first I’d heard of him making up to Katie, because with the old folks there, it was strictly chaperoned.
And how did they know my old man was wealthy? I said, “Christ, all he is is a manager of a small department in a big Eaton’s store.” Keert said he knew that, but to the Dutch a manager meant something more, like a works manager and that meant a factory, and if that’s what my dad was, then lie was pretty big stuff. Anna would be making a real match.
From then on, he said, the heat would be on. The old folks would leave about nine or so, and if I had the inclination, and so on and so forth, it was okay with them. Apparently it was just fine with Anna, although you couldn’t have told it from the way she’d acted the two months or so we’d been going over there. Just a good kid, that type of thing. But I thought, maybe she knew how to play it smart a long long time before I did.
That’s about the way it was. Play the game, I figured. If she’ll jump into the hay, fine. Maybe we wouldn’t be around that long. I was a pretty young soldier and I didn’t know much about sex, so, what the hell, I thought, catch up on the game. On Sunday we’d go for walks, just like I would have in Toronto. Over to a village three miles away, a hot chocolate. Holding hands. Kissing. That sort of thing. Then quite a bit further than kissing, and momma and poppa and oma, her grandmother, smiling quietly and Katie being awful nice, too, and her other sister, the youngster, whose name was Jay-Jay.
I don’t want to dig myself in any deeper than I am, so I’ll just say this. We got shipped home in July of ’45 and we were supposed to go to Japan but that finished up, too, so about November, Anna came to Montreal on a ship and I drove down to pick her up and back here to Toronto and we got married and it’s worked out pretty well. I’ve got no complaints and that was nearly twenty-five years ago.